Acronym or backronym? Is there any point….

This post began as a bit of a rant after I talked to a colleague at an event about businesses floundering without direction and wondered how I could really get people’s attention and remind them strongly that they needed a map to steer their business!

We live in a world which at times seems to be drowning in acronyms (an abbreviation formed by initial letters of other words): RADAR: RAdio Detection and Ranging; SMS: Short Message Service; IFA: Independent Financial Adviser…etc etc – I’m sure you can think of loads more – there are even acronmyn dictionaries with over 40,000 entries! In fact ‘BLOG’ is one – coming from the term weB LOG.

There are even backronyms which take words and turn them into a phrase or saying! One of my favourites is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Some of this is definitely perpetuated by texting and the instant messaging which so many of us use now to communicate quickly and easily with others – but the problem with this is that unless your recipient understands the language, then the message is lost btw!

One such term which is particularly pertinent in business and marketing is SMART.

Most people will have heard of the phrase ‘SMART objectives’. Of course we all nod vigorously and some of us have every intention of making our objectives work along these principles, but how many of us actually follow through and pay this much more than lip service?

So how should it work in practice? Well let me explain again what SMART means:

S – SPECIFIC

M – MEASURABLE

A – ACHIEVABLE

R – REALISTIC

T – TIMEBOUND

Basically this means that instead of saying “I’m going to sell more to my existing customers” – this could translate into:

“I am going to sell conditioner to every customer who buys a shampoo during the month of March by having a special offer on a combined pack”

It makes much more sense, is clearer – we know exactly what we will do, and when – and of course the all important final step – we can track our progress and measure whether we have been successful.

I attended an event this week in Glasgow and was very fortunate to hear a keynote speech by Liz Jackson MBE, founder of Great Guns Marketing. Some of you will know Liz from the Secret Millionaire, others will have heard of her considerable success in business. Liz’s business is tele-marketing and she has such a passion for business, and a real infectious excitement for her job. Her company makes outbound calls on behalf of other organisations to achieve things like appointment bookings and sales to their target businesses customers.

One thing which Liz said in particular really struck home with me. She talked about SMART objectives and how she really doesn’t believe in them. Her team are encouraged to reach for huge and stretching goals, which sees her company grow rapidly – her company recorded growth of 45% in this last year of the credit crunch.

And that also seems to make lots of sense to me – if we are stifled and set ourselves achievable goals, then we are very likely to achieve them, but how do we challenge ourselves and really grow our businesses? Its a facet of human nature that we really don’t like to fail – so of course we set ourselves goals which we are more likely to achieve than not.

So here is my take on the matter:

As business owners, we need to have goals and ‘dreams’ for ourselves and our companies which inspire us to go that extra mile for something which we really really want, AND

We should translate those goals into business objectives which we can build a marketing plan around to ensure we reach these goals – and exceed them!

I think the message from all of this is that above anything else (going back to my sailing ships going round the world’s oceans in circles) is to have documented business goals and dreams, underpin these with strong determined objectives, and have a marketing and communications plan which gets you to where you want to go – with built in measurement and control of your activities. Remember business should be enjoyable too – and how can you have fun when your head is full of stress about whether you are doing the right things, juggling lots of tasks without knowing why and never feeling like you’ve got anything done!

So I’m off to create my treasure map which will take me and my fairytale 16th century great ship with crows nest and big white sails to the most stunning island surrounded by blue and green seas, where I will lounge on the beach surrounded by parrots and birds in the palm trees, sipping cocktails brought to me by Captain Jack Sparrow!! Well business success has to bring its rewards surely??

Captain Jack

Enjoy the process, be inspired but above all: PLAN – don’t leave your business success (or lack of it) down to chance, luck or someone else’s whim!

Alison

The end of the Noughties….

 My Pinkie Promise

So where do you find yourself as we near the end of the decade they are calling the ‘Noughties': 2000-2009?

For me, its seen me make the move from employment to self-employment; the fulfilment of a personal wish that I’m very fortunate to have realised.

Running my own company has been life changing and challenging but very exciting – and I’m using the last weeks of the decade to review the business year and plan for 2010. I’ve been working hard on several big event projects and also enjoying working with clients to review their marketing strategies and plan their communications to ensure business objectives are met and their incomes grow.

While many people who ‘work for others’ take this time to collapse and get away from work, for me its useful thinking and planning time to make sure that the new year sees a determined strategy to build my business, achieve the next stage in its growth and continue to thrive.

I have found business networking during 2009 to be invaluable in forming relationships with business people, many of whom have become friends. As a small business, one of the things that you can lose is the ‘water-cooler’ social aspect, so getting yourself out there is very important for keeping you connected and making sure you are enjoying all that self-employment can bring.

I would like to thank the Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, and Women Ahead business networking groups for being a vital part of my working month. These groups offer different aspects to local business networking and compliment each other perfectly, giving opportunities to meet forward thinking business people from over 400 companies in Dundee & Angus.

So onwards and definitely upwards in 2010. I hope that it brings you all that you wish for!

With a pinkie promise for good things in the coming year,

Alison

Creative marketing & social networking

I wanted to write something on this subject because its something I’m being asked virtually everywhere I go in business at the moment.

Do you tweet? Is your brand on Facebook? Do you have a clue what YouTube can do for your business? And how about blogging? LinkedIn? Email marketing? etc etc etc!

Well I am a definite convert to the use of online social networking tools. Its important to look at how some of these strategies can really bring your brand to life and help others to begin to develop a relationship with you.

Its also a vital tool in ENGAGING with people who might be your customer. These methods allow you to strike up a conversation with people – some more immedate than others – but all with a purpose of reminding people what you are all about and helping them to see how they can buy from you.

And of course another great feature of all this is that its FREE to use!

“Free?” did I hear you cry? Absolutely – the only resource required is your time. So now is it beginning to make more sense to you?

But a word of caution before you all dash off to sign up everywhere – remember that once you start you cant walk away from it or post content which could damage your brand.

You can use Facebook to create a page for your business where you tell people about offers, events and business developments.

On Twitter, its about engaging with a wider audience and interacting more with people to tell them what you are doing, what is happening in your company and what your products are all about. Did you know that you can search for keywords in people’s conversations and strike up a dialogue with them?

Say for example, you sell widgets, and you find that a group of people in Edinburgh are tweeting about how dreadful their supplier of widgets is – well you introduce yourself and tell that how fantastic your own widget is! They’ll have a look at the kind of tweet you’ve published in the past to help them decide if you are on the level – then you could be well on the way to a new sale: all from the comfort of your office or sofa!

And LinkedIn is a business community where you connect with people – usually those that you know initially, or contacts of other contacts. You can also join virtual groups of people who share an interest of business expertise such as ‘Widget Developers’ who will post discussions, help each other with problems and perhaps meet at events in the real world.

Blogging is a way to post short articles around your area of expertise – although often people will blog about anything and everything that comes to them at the time!

You can post videos onto YouTube which can be a great way of bringing you and your brand to life – have you heard the story of the girl who posted make-up tutorials and is now making her very own range of cosmetics and working with one of the big firms in the industry?

Email marketing – to people who you have engaged with and who have opted in to receive emails from you – is a VERY good way of keeping you in touch with people. Return on investment is reported as two to three times higher with email marketing than standards marketing. It can give you a cross selling opportunity, highlight special offers to your customers, and tell them about developments.

But what do you do if you feel that you’d like to engage with some of these practices but just havent got the time to spend on all of it? Well how about have someone do it for you?

Appoint someone in your office as the person who updates the Twitter and Facebook accounts – as long as you have regular updates on what is there, what will be posted etc so that you can be sure it fits with your marketing strategy and wider brand values.

Use your own contacts within business to populate your LinkedIn page and make sure that everyone in the business knows how to add contacts into the email marketing database.

Its all about doing small things often to keep on top of these strategies so that you are more disciplined and likely to keep it going. Simple, often and sustained – that’s the best way of making sure you keep it going for a long time to really create a strong online presence and dialogue with contacts.

And why not build it into your strategy going forward? Use a consultant to work for you on a part-time basis to help you engage with people and keep ahead of your competitors by using the latest methods to get your business message out there and prominent in the minds of your customers to keep the tills ringing!

Facebook has more than 300 million active users, with 50% of those logging on to Facebook in any given day. The fastest growing user is 35 years old and older. More than 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide) and more than 10 million users become fans of Pages each day.

Can you afford to ignore this opportunity? Its a fun way to engage and promote your business and products to the wider community with a minimum spend and huge potential.

Click my links below to connect with me on some of these sites and remember and talk to me and engage – that’s what’s important: Enjoy!

FACEBOOKTWITTERLINKEDIN

http://www.mypinkepromise.co.uk

Getting Married?

This weekend sees the return of The Scottish Wedding Show to Glasgow where they are expecting 8000 visitors over 2 days. They are going to see a variety of suppliers and a catwalk show which promises to be Scotland’s largest!

But if all that is enough to give you a headache – how about when it comes to arranging your own Big Day?

Well you’ve done the romantic proposal bit – one of you got down on bended knee: hopefully!! So what’s next…..

Usually its wedding magazines, giving you loads and loads and loads and loads of ideas! But how do you translate that into your own experience – because all girls want their day to be just that little bit different from everyone else’s.

Well a viable option for you is to get in an expert – someone who has experience of many of the Wedding Suppliers in your area – who loves weddings and can make sure you get EXACTLY what you want!

It makes sense to work with a Wedding Planner who will be able to get you good rates with your local suppliers so that you get the benefit of expert help without adding lots of cost to your wedding budget.

And they will manage all your suppliers: cars, rings, photographer, florist, kilt hire, hair and make-up, guests, venue, band and budget – all of that can be taken care of so that you are free to really enjoy your day without having to worry about why they’ve run out of ice at the bar!

A good Wedding Planner sits down with you at the beginning, finds out your budget, what you are looking for and should be able to give you lots of options to choose from so that you get all the right things, at the right price, at the right time. They can also theme your wedding for you if that’s what you want – whether its a Scottish ceilidh; a jazz band; a black & white theme; a fairy castle – its your day and it must be a day to remember for the rest of your lives – for all of the right reasons!

At My Pinkie Promise, we will tailor our services to you, and can provide a full wedding service, from finding the right venue and suppliers, on the day co-ordination, marquee set-up – to a partial service, such as making up your favours, arranging your florist, entertainers etc.

Our pinkie promise to you is that we bring creativity, determination, focus and commitment to our relationships with our clients. Its a promise that seals the deal and ensures that your wedding will be the best!

Call Alison on 07552 167801, email alison@mypinkiepromise.co.uk or visit http://www.mypinkiepromise.co.uk/weddings for more information.

Are you getting ready to market your business in 2010?

Its nearly the end of Q3, 2009 and most people will be turning their thoughts towards business planning for 2010 already. To make sure that your planning process is robust, you need to be spending at least a month going through the review, analysis and goal setting in order to plan your activities for the coming year.

So I hope you are asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How are we going to get there?
  4. How will we track progress?

There is a tried and tested Marketing Planning process to go through that really will set you on a sure footing for your activities going into the new year. You need to make sure that you know who you are targetting, understand how to talk to them and are clear on the best ways to reach them.

And the other thing that is perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT piece of the business planning jigsaw is monitoring progress – and learning from what your reports are telling you.

All too often we can see companies who implement marketing activities but never review where their business comes from or trace it back to Return on Investment (ROI).

If you don’t know where your business is coming from how can you know which of your activities is profitable?

So now could be the time for you to get me on board to spend a couple of days with you or your key personnel to help you work out your marketing planning & strategy for the coming business year.

Give me a call on 07552 167801 to help unlock your potential….

Alison

 pink padlock

What motivates us in the workplace?


So what motivates people – and how do you find out the best way to motivate your staff?

Well perhaps not surprising in the current climate – but an answer which I would strongly argue transcends the credit crunch – is training and communication – not hard cash!

In a recent survey covering 1,500 business, 78% of staff said that they would like an on-boarding programme, however in those companies, only 37% actually provide any kind of induction programme.

A third of staff who had gone through an induction programme with the company said it had reinforced their decision to join that company.

Many of those who went through the programmes said that it made them feel at ease with their new surroundings and enabled them to get up to speed more quickly.

The survey also found that 75% of new staff had no level of contact with their employer between accepting a job offer and starting their new role.

So what can companies learn from this information?

Well for a start – communicate with your staff! That goes for existing and new employees of course. But when you have invested time and money into bringing people into your business don’t simply assume that they will just be able to get on with it.

Its clear that a well thought out induction programme introducing them to the company at large and not just their own job and team will make a huge difference to their productivity and also motivate and retain them for longer.

Its also equally important to ensure that arrangements for informing and consulting employees over major change are effective if companies want to improve trust in senior management, especially in current climates.

However, change in the workplace has been prevalent for a long time now and employees may simply be unaware of how well they have coped with change in the organisation in the last 5 to 10 years. So its also important to have a programme which involves staff, educates them and makes them feel that their opinions are valued and trusted.

Remember that usually your staff are the customer touch point of your business and as such they are all your brand ambassadors so making sure they are all on the same page is a vital component in your marketing.

As the economic downturn began to bite, a 2008 report from Cranfield School of Management, commissioned by learndirect Business, revealed organisations that invest in their staff are best placed to save money (44%) improve staff motivation (33%) and increase employee retention (52%).

However, although the Nurturing Talent report highlights training and development can have significant benefits such as increased staff motivation and retention, only a third (34%) of employers have a formal training strategy.

The report, which was compiled using responses from 1,189 training and recruitment decision makers, reveals over three quarters of employers (78%) see skills development as more beneficial to their organisation compared to recruiting staff externally.

Dr Emma Parry, Senior Research Fellow, Cranfield School of Management, who authored the report, said: “this research demonstrates that growing your own is an effective way for organisations to obtain the skills they need while saving money. For employers, the nurturing talent concept means managing and developing employees to achieve business goals.  This could include training employee coaching staff mentoring and job enrichment to stretch employees with new tasks.”

So while formal training including examinations and academic development is an essential tool for many, personal workplace development is a tool which still is widely underutilised.

Mentoring and coaching as part of a structured programme with agreed objectives and outcomes will help staff to become more skilled in their own job, help them to upskill for new roles and promotions, encourage them to have a stake in their own development and keep them committed to the organisation and role.

Its a process which is often used by executives for development so if its widely recognised to benefit senior management then it should be evident that its something which very many more people can benefit from.

Of course a good bit of sunny weather like we are having at the moment doesn’t do any harm either – its just much less controllable!!

best wishes,

Alison

Networking – what’s your style?

 networking - what’s your style?

 

In business, being able to network is an important tool but is a skill which very rarely comes naturally to us all.

Personally I don’t find it as difficult as some other things (cold calling for example) – I like to meet new people and am genuinely interested in what they do and what people are up to.

I think that nothing beats face-to-face conversation to build rapport and while you might often not get a direct sale from everyone you meet in networking, making a positive impression on a person definitely means that they will remember you and if they can’t use you themselves, they will be very very likely to recommend you to others. Its often months afterwards before you see a clear business benefit from a particular networking situation or relationship but keep plugging away.

Its also important not to talk about yourself during the whole time – people quickly get bored with this; they will tune out and begin to look round the room for someone to rescue them! Networking is all about sharing information and if you make the effort to learn about others they will return the favour.

Also remember – its a gentle sales pitch which needs to be engaging, interesting and benefit led. So what do I mean by benefit led?

The Window Cleaner:

Well if I was a window cleaner, I wouldn’t stand in front of you and tell you about the soap I used which I could get cheaply at the local wholesalers…nor would I bother to tell you where I store my ladders or which of my customers gives me fresh water etc!!

What I would definitely do is tell you what a difference my service would make to your business life – how you would save money by having an expert do the job on a regular basis: all the corners would be done, there would be no marks left behind, and you wouldn’t need to buy the materials. You would save time by not having to do it yourself and the sparkle of your windows would attract customers and show that you looked after your premises and cared about its image.

Then of course I would also throw in some testimonials of some of the other local businesses who use my services and perhaps even some funny anecdotes (provided they were for sharing of course!) – I’m sure that many of us are interested in the things that a window cleaner sees in his day-to-day activities….

So you’re speaking to someone, having an enjoyable networking conversation – what else is important? Well body language & responses are something to be conscious of: remember to respond during the other person’s stories (small nod’s of your head, little affirmations like “mhmm; I see what you mean; that makes lots of sense” etc) will put them at ease and show that you are listening and interested. Face someone with your body, look them in the eye, don’t fiddle with papers, give people a bit of personal space but don’t be too far away – these are all small things which show you are interested and engaged.

And closure is all important too; make sure that you exchange contact details – business cards are the most common thing here – and if you have promised to follow-up with a particular piece of information or schedule a meeting – make sure you do so. Its important that you don’t get a reputation for not delivering on your promises because if you can’t be bothered to do something small like this then they will have good reason to distrust your business product or service too.

Of course you will always find going into a new situation a bit nerve wracking – however, what is important is that you relax and enjoy it – just remember that 99% of the room will be feeling exactly the same. Just ask one or two of the people you talk to at the beginning if they have been to this event before – the chances are that they’ve never been either and are feeling just as unsure as you are – or if you find someone who is a regular use that to your advantage – ask them what they like about it, what’s good about the event and if there is anyone in the room who they feel would be good for you to talk to. They will probably introduce you which is a good icebreaker.

You need to make the effort to speak to people – don’t hide yourself away in a corner of the room or only speak to people you know already – you get out of networking what you put into it. Welcome people into your group – especially if they are alone – think about how you would like to be included and do that to others.

Don’t hide your personality away but don’t be over-friendly or casual just strike the right balance, mirror other people in their style and you can’t go far wrong – above all relax and enjoy yourself then when you leave the event people remember you in a positive way which is bound to lead to good results for you in the future! Don’t be tempted to fuel your confidence with alcohol – you might think you are being vivacious, funny and interesting but your audience will often have a very different perspective!

Next time I’ll tackle social networking which can be a different ball game altogether; entertaining, addictive and very engrossing but until then: Happy networking!

Alison

Swishing anyone?

I’m in swishing mode this week people!! For the uninitiated amongst you, Swishing is can be held in your home where you host a party to recycle your clothes with friends, or on a larger scale open to anyone to come along.

This Friday, Amanda and her friends are having a Swishing event to raise funds for Diabetes UK in Broughty Ferry which should be a really fun night and a good way to refresh your wardrobe over drinks and food.

Swishing helps you clear out your wardrobe of all those things which you no longer wear – and lets be honest girls we do hang on to things we definitely shouldn’t – take them along to an event and then be allowed to swap them for items which others have brought which you like. This can include clothes, shoes, accessories, sunglasses, handbags etc – the list is really endless.

The main thing is that everything must be in good condition, clean and as wrinklefree as possible!

You never know when you’ll walk off with a designer item either – its a great way to get your hands on some vintage gear too.

If you’ve ever been to a swishing event or think its a good idea, post a comment here – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week,

Alison x

Well hello there……..

Well this is my 1st post – I’ve been working like crazy to get my own website up and running. At the same time I’ve been training as a coach and trying to absorb as much information as possible to make my new business venture a success.

I’ve been meeting loads of new people who’ve been a great help to me.

I am really enjoying going in such a brand new direction:

I INTEND TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.

Feel free to add comments, posts etc – hopefully I won’t stay as such a newbie at this for too long.

I was born for the Gadget Show and and tweeting already so hopefully I’ll get to grips with this stuff too.

lots of love,

Alison x

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